Tag Archives: Mike Jarvis

Public Services and the Private Sector (Part 1)

Bin Men

There is a lot of debate right now in the UK about who should best be trusted to provide public services, should it be provided directly or should it be contracted out to the Private Sector.  The Private Sector are the people who win Government contracts with exaggerated promises and then squabble about providing the services that they have promised and keep making menacing threats for more money.

Just this month a major Private Sector company called Carillion who enjoyed a lot of public sector contracts went bust and left the country and the tax payer in the lurch.

I feel well qualified to speak out on this matter because for ten years between 1990 and 2000 I had the misfortune to be employed in a privatised service in waste management.

This is how it all began…

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Yellow Refuse Truck

Dennis Eagle Cory Environmental Gedling

I found myself unexpectedly in the employment of Cory Environmental because in the 1980s and 90s local authorities were obliged to market test their services through direct competition with the private sector.

I worked for a Council in Nottinghamshire and we lost our work through the tendering process.  This wasn’t because we were too expensive or couldn’t put a decent business case together but rather because the people running Cory Environmental didn’t have much of a clue and submitted an under priced bid that they couldn’t possibly hope to financially or operationally achieve but importantly for them was absolutely certain to win the contract.

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Onyx UK and an Inappropriate Visit To The Moulin Rouge

“That is the Can-can. The idea of it is to dance as wildly, as noisily, as furiously as you can; expose yourself as much as possible if you are a woman; and kick as high as you can, no matter which sex you belong to. There is no word of exaggeration in this. Any of the staid, respectable, aged people who were there that night can testify to the truth of that statement.” – Mark Twain – ‘The Innocents Abroad’

Between 1995 and 2000 I worked for a French company called Onyx UK (now Veolia Environmental Services) and they used to take us away frequently for management meetings and we stayed in expensive hotels and hung out in bars and nice restaurants.

Best of all was that once a year we all met up and assembled at Waterloo station and they put us on Eurostar train and took us through the tunnel to Paris for an annual conference.

Moulin Rouge in Paris…

One year when they were really showing off after buying out a competitor they took us to the Moulin Rouge for a special treat and we had champagne to drink and watched an extravagant stage show.  Although they would have negotiated a group discount on account of there being about eighty of us someone told me later that this demonstration of extravagant folly cost the company over £8,000 which was about the equivalent of the annual salary of one of the street cleaners that it employed.

To his credit my friend Mike Jarvis refused to go because of this and because he considered it inappropriate to accompany female work colleagues to what he described as a strip-club.  I did not share his lofty moral objections, satisfied myself that it was an up-market strip club, was not going to pass up the opportunity and happily sold my soul and accepted a ticket for the meal and the show.

The Moulin Rouge opened on 6th October 1889 in a building at the foot of the Montmartre hill.  Its owners were visionary businessmen who understood perfectly what Parisian society wanted at that time and they created a nightclub on the precipice of sleeziness to allow the very rich to go legitimately to the fashionable but seedy district of Montmartre where they could demonstrate egalitarian virtues and mix with workers, artists, prostitutes, the middle classes, businessmen, elegant women and foreign tourists visiting Paris.

By day the exterior of the Moulin Rouge is rather disappointing and the red windmill looks rather out of place and almost quite absurd on this busy Paris Boulevard but by night it is something completely different with glitzy lights, the whiff of gauloise on the evening air and a sense of anticipation as people turn up for the show. We arrived in two buses and were ushered through the lines of people waiting behind barriers who would gladly buy our tickets from us if we were prepared to sell and past ladies of dubious employment who would willingly accompany anyone who had a spare.

Walking along the corridor and through the doors into the interior was an awesome experience, like stepping back to Belle Époque (French for Beautiful Era) turn of the century Paris into a room predominantly decorated in lavish scarlet with rows of table lamps flickering like glow worms in a forest and columns adorned with Toulouse Lautrec posters and other appropriate memorabilia.

My first open–mouthed impression was that this was a magnificent venue with authentic mural paintings and columns with the original posters of the big name stars that have appeared here, somewhere that epitomised the European golden age of peace, extravagance and optimism all perfectly captured here in a sort of time capsule.  It isn’t especially big inside which gives it an intimate ambiance and this was emphasised when we squeezed into out allotted tables about half way back from the stage in between two rows of decorative gold barriers that separated the eight hundred and fifty diners into convenient corrals to make it easier for the waiters to serve tables.

The Galop from Jacques Offenbach’s ‘Orpheus in the Underworld’

is the tune most associated with the famous can-can dance and which is a prominent feature of the entertainment and as the room began to fill this played repeatedly in the background until the buzz of anticipation eventually drowned it out.

Once everyone was in their seats the lights went down, the music exploded into the auditorium and the dancers in lavish costumes opened the two hour show with the iconic high kicking dance.  During the show there was an average three-course corporate entertainment meal and for our table of eight there was cheap champagne and a bottle of red and white wine which proved completely inadequate and was soon consumed.  We considered buying more but it was prohibitively expensive because the management doesn’t want tables full of boozed-up louts acting inappropriately, leering and wolf whistling at the girls on stage so we stayed dry for the second half of the show with the intention of making up for it later back at our hotel.

After the show the room emptied quickly as guests were efficiently whisked away to the street for waiting taxis and transportation.  Our coaches were there and took us directly back to the hotel where Mike was sitting in the bar and over a drink or two remained stubbornly uninterested in our tales of the evening’s entertainment, he didn’t want to know about the mime artist or the acrobat who balanced on chairs and he especially didn’t want to know about the half dressed dancers, and on reflection, although I confess that I  enjoyed it, retrospectively I have to say that I agree with him – it was a scandalous waste of money.


More tales of incompetence, waste and extravagance:

Cory Environmental, Blunders and Bodger

The Tendering process

First Weekend as a Refuse Collection Contract Manager

Disorganising the Work

Cory Environmental at Southend on Sea

Onyx UK

Onyx UK and the Dog Poo Solution

The Royal Ascot Clear Up Fiasco

An Unexpected Travel Opportunity


Cory Environmental, Southend on Sea

Southend beach 2

Cory Environmental started out in 1896 as William Cory and Son Ltd, transporting coal into London on the River Thames.  Coal was the lifeblood of the city and after they had made a fortune in the first thirty years they diversified and began to transport waste using the city’s waterways.  In the 1980s however the company grew weary of the union riddled coal and oil distribution business and these services were sold, and the business decided to expand into and concentrate upon waste management.

In 1990 the company was renamed Cory Environmental and it appointed Blunders and Bodger to run the municipal division.

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Cory Environmental, Blunders and Bodger

Bin Men Gedling Cory Environmental Team

“Margaret Thatcher wasn’t just callously indifferent to the suffering of those she made jobless or snubbed.  (She) set out to destroy entire industries in an appalling act of political and social vandalism…. When she marched into Number 10, it wasn’t bad – it was horrible, absolutely terrible.”                         Daily Mirror Editorial

I have never been especially politically aware so when Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister in 1979 I was completely oblivious to the potential impact that the Tory policy of privatisation could have on me directly.  The first Conservative term of office came and went without any real upheaval but then after her second election victory in 1983 the pace of destruction of public sector services began to increase and eventually in 1989 I became a victim of the Thatcher axe and lost my job in local government as services were handed over to the private sector.

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